By Bob Duncan

The UK government had issued licences for the export to Syria of the chemicals required to produce sarin nerve gas, almost a year after the outbreak of the civil war, reports the Daily Record.

Export licences were granted last January by the government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride. Both compounds are components of sarin gas, the nerve agent thought to have been responsible for the deaths of 1500 civilians in a Damascus suburb last week.

The alleged use of such weapons by the Assad regime was the justification for Prime Minister David Cameron’s failed attempt on Thursday to persuade Westminster parliamentarians to sanction UK military intervention in Syria.

While no evidence has yet come to light that the exported chemicals were actually used to produce chemical weapons, there have been complaints that the UK government was negligent in issuing such licenses for a region undergoing such internal difficulties.

Among those voices is Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty, a member of the House of Commons committee on Arms Export Controls. He told the Record, “At best it has been negligent and at worst reckless to export material that could have been used to create chemical weapons.

“MPs will be horrified and furious that the UK Government has been allowing the sale of these ingredients to Syria. What the hell were they doing granting a licence in the first place?

“I would like to know what investigations have been carried out to establish if any of this material exported to Syria was subsequently used in the attacks on its own people.”

Mark Bitel, Scottish representative of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), added: “The UK Government claims to have an ethical policy on arms exports, but when it comes down to practice the reality is very different. The Government is hypocritical to talk about chemical weapons if it’s been granting licences to companies to export to regimes such as Syria,”.

CAAT had earlier criticised David Cameron for his recent arms sales tour of the Middle East, claiming he was commercially courting dictators whom he also denounces.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills defended the decision to grant the export licenses, saying: “The UK Government operates one of the most rigorous arms export control regimes in the world.

“An export licence would not be granted where we assess there is a clear risk the goods might be used for internal repression, provoke or prolong conflict within a country, be used aggressively against another country or risk our national security.

“When circumstances change or new information comes to light, we can – and do – revoke licences where the proposed export is no longer consistent with the criteria.”

The export licences were indeed revoked some six months after they were issued. However, this was as a result of an overriding EU sanction being imposed on the Assad regime, rather than as a result of review by the UK government.

The SNP’s Westminster leader and defence spokesman, Angus Robertson MP, said: “I will be raising this in Parliament as soon as possible to find out what examination the UK Government made of where these chemicals were going and what they were to be used for.

“Approving the sale of chemicals which can be converted into lethal weapons during a civil war is a very serious issue.

“We need to know who these chemicals were sold to, why they were sold, and whether the UK Government were aware that the chemicals could potentially be used for chemical weapons.

“The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria makes a full explanation around these shady deals even more important.”

Westminster has so far refused to confirm the dates of the exports, identify the licence holders or say whether the licences were issued to one or two companies.


2013-09-01 17:22

Riiight, so ‘we’ export the chemical components which can be made into chemical weapons to a dodgy regime, then we threaten to go in and bomb the sh*t out of them? Yup that’s typical UK.
2013-09-01 18:29

Sounds like the same arguement for many UK arms exports over the years from Hawk variants to training expertise (“if we don’t sell it to them then the French will” – I would like to see a drug dealer offer up this defence in court!).

Whatever happened to the concept of reviewing end user intent.

I look forward to seeing this article in the mainstream media 🙁
2013-09-01 19:45

I seem to remember some terrorists release sarin in the Tokyo subway, back in 1995. it killed and injured huge numbers of people. They didn’t need sophisticated delivery systems or an army.
2013-09-01 21:11

“When circumstances change…..”

Right, you mean “When we get found out” ……!
2013-09-01 22:06

So the Parliament wants to go to war against the Syrian when they know perfectly that they were the ones to deliver chemicals!!! (with the Saudi) What a scary and dangerous farce!
Ready to Start
2013-09-02 08:36

O/T but Courier reports

YES in lead in latest opinion poll…/…
2013-09-02 10:48

Quoting Ready to Start:

O/T but Courier reports

YES in lead in latest opinion poll…/…

Surprise,surpri  se the P&J; have reported on this poll just the other day they were using the Telegraph name for the SNP, nats this and nats that.


2013-09-02 09:00

What other uses are there for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride? The export certification must state the intended use of these chemicals surely.
Leader of the Pack
2013-09-02 09:02

Jamie Black tell us all again how the UK should be “intervening” in Syria when the result of its previous “intervention” was to supply the regime with components for making toxic gas?
call me dave
2013-09-02 09:10

Just read that on another blog and checked it twice …. That’s what it says Panelbase Poll.

Not bad for the Courier!…. Oh! Oh! it also carries this:

Gordon Brown to present positive case for union:
This will be the nearly together but separate from the tories campaign starting to rumble.
Johann will be third stooge from the left …err right on the stage.
call me dave
2013-09-02 09:27

Georgie boy splutters forth.
Astonishing that the Courier leads on an SNP commissioned poll from Panelbase “an online survey offering cash rewards for taking part” Dodgy.…/…
————————————-Trashed already by Foulkes, that confirms it then I like it more already.
2013-09-02 10:39

Aye the Panelbase poll is also in the Hootsmon:…/…
2013-09-02 10:54

Panelbase poll is also in the unionist Press and Journal – grudgingly.
2013-09-02 10:54

Panelbase Poll also on front page Sun.
2013-09-02 10:56

Doesn’t Labour MP Thomas Docherty and the rest of his Unionist colleagues realise that the UK’s arms industry is part of being “Better Together” and “punching above our weight”.

I’m only surprised Darling, Moore, Curran, etc., haven’t yet found a way to blame Alex Salmond and the hated SNP for these dodgy export licences. I wonder if Paul Sinclair’s scripted diatribe for Lamont to deliver at FMQs will correct this obvious omission?
2013-09-02 11:20

OT – but good news

Scotch whisky exports hit a record £4.27bn last year, accounting for around a quarter of the UK’s food and drink sales overseas.…/…
2013-09-02 16:48

But according to Douglas Fraser the whisky industry is heading for the rocks.

2013-09-02 11:53

The poll is up on the SNP website:…/…

(Change from July 2013 Panelbase/Sunday Times poll in brackets):

Should Scotland be an independent country?
Yes: 44% (+7)
No: 43% (-3)
Don’t Know: 13% (-4)

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘Scotland could be a successful independent country’.
Yes, I agree: 52%
No, I disagree: 37%
Don’t Know: 11%
call me dave
2013-09-02 17:54

BBC ignore new poll shock horror story.
Are we surprised …. NO!

Scottish independence: BBC appoints John Mullin as referendum editor:

Mr Mullins please let us comment on political stories on the BBC Scottish web page.
Re-open the comments column or your fine words will not be worth anything.
That will be a start.

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